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cover_brands_hatchWhat does a self proclaimed racer do? When qualification is on its way, but his car is still in the doldrums. Wander through the pit lane. Bitterly ruminating life’s funny habit of throwing one a bone. Only to make it another’s cross to bear.

Take this clumsy dork Honey picked up in Nuremberg. A feeble little bugger with, I imagine, utensils sourly failing at satisfying the likes of Honey. Who then ends up being heir to the Plyson family or something. Who owns about every hotel in France as well as in the near vicinity.

Dorkie however wants nothing to do with the family’s hotel business. At the exception of the steady flow of liquidities coming his way out of it, that is.

All he wants to do is race. He claims. With that blessed conviction that drives even the most ignoring fart-knocker to belief that he has potential.

The ignorant fuck has money to spend though. Enough to hire the Zolder track for an entire day of private practice. And the wit to strike a deal with me. I get the whole morning of track time, allowing me to work some on the Beemer’s set-up. And he gets to drive the M1 in the afternoon.

I should off course have known that all ignorant idiots have one thing in common. At first, they drive with anxiety fueled care. But that caution is soon thrown to windy clouds of deceptive faith in their own capacities. Making them incessantly reckless. After some twenty laps of getting used to the car, Honey’s dork thus decided to attack the Kleine Chicane full on the throttle. Launching the car barrelling and rolling. An excursion into Icarus’ turf that ended with the car on its roof. Totally wrecked. And suddenly, all that Plyson family money had disappeared like snow before sun.

Luckily, my main sponsor’s desire to keep me as far away from Reims as possible, substantially exceeded his reluctance to spent money on me. A shitload of the dough was wired to Luton, Bedforshire. And some more to a Belgian transporter. Urgently requesting the man to shift the remains of my car to Bob Sparshott and John Woodington. Two buddying engineers who would get my wheels back to pristine condition.

With qualifying almost half way through, they are still down to the last nuts and bolts though. And I yet have to drive my first lap around Brands Hatch. Not necessarily the easiest of tracks.

I continue my walk along pit lane. Where all drivers are busy preparing for the race. Chacon’s crew seems to be as clumsy as the bumper car aficionado behind their car’s wheel. Miserably failing at getting the car from the jack and stopping Chacon from getting out to the track.

The Brazilian is lamenting about the situation. With lots of drama added for good measure obviously. Vydra tries to lend a helping hand. Which comes as no surprise really. Even if Lukas has only been around for a couple of races, he fits right in with the old generation of HSO-drivers. Those who show up on Sunday with some track fun for sole objective. True gentlemen. Always ready to give a helping hand.

Some of the new guys however feels the irresistible urge to snarl at Lukas. Something along the lines of: “What is up with your stupid comments, Lukas?”

Even if totally uncalled for, it was to be expected though. As much as Lukas fits in with the old crowd, this new guy never will. The archetype of a fair chunk of the new generation showing up at HSO, he is. Blokes turn up at the tracks just to inflate ego’s that are already rather sizeable for starters. Constantly bragging about their equipment and feats. Sucking up to admins and other fast drivers… Blatantly ignoring and talking down all the others.

There are still just a minority of those new brats. But their venom seems to be slowly spreading.

With about 30 minutes of qualifying left, the BS-boys finally have my car ready to go. So I get out on to the track. The result is predictable: dead last on the grid. Close to two seconds slower even than bloody Chacon.

As a kid, I would sometimes secretly take of my pajamas to sleep without. It was at about the age when I was discovering that the stuff down there could do more than just dangle about. On such nights, I would often dream that I was sitting stark naked in my school bench; in the middle of a class. Convincing myself in vain that the bench sufficiently masked my nudity. After a while, the teacher would always call me to the front of the room. To solve a math problem or recite a poem… At that point, I usually woke up.

Right here and now, dead last on the grid, I feel more stripped than in those dreams.

There are tricks that help turn a starting position at the back of the grid into an advantage, I try to get my motivation up. But I evidently do not grasp the first thing about any of those tricks. And so simply relinquish any hope. Stick to being dead last as the starting flag drops. And have a last good look at track and competitors during the entire first lap.

Pole sitter Riddall is a tad eager to get the power down at the get-go. Spinning his rear wheels wildly and battling a rear-end that wants to embark on a destiny of its own. It is all Canola, second on the grid, needs to pull ahead and grab the lead.

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Canola grabs the lead at the start.

Maximus Grantus recovers quickly and firmly holds on to second. But clearly has no intention to leave it at that. Out of Stirlings, his eagerness to get back at Canola has his him mowing the lawn.

As they set of for their second lap, the leading trio of Canola, Riddall and Jaques is already pulling a slight gap to a chasing Thim and Parker. Riddall is throwing everything he has at Canola. Trying to move ahead under braking for Druids. Then looking at pulling alongside along Cooper Straight.

Into Surtees, the grand man is even a bit overly optimistic. And goes wide again. Which immediately has Jaques all over his case.

As I start lap two, the time seems right to slightly turn up the rhythm. Wild card Martinelli is running just in front of me. And is working up a serious appetite for Chacon’s 24th spot. The Brazilian is again displaying a fabulous ability to be prehistorically slow, but just fast enough to stay ahead. Slowing everything behind him down.

“Just stay in the wake of these two madcaps, and good things will come your way.” A nimble voice whispers in my ear. And being in a good pupil mood, I bravely obey.

Canola has meanwhile been in the lead for two laps. And that is about all Riddall is prepared to grant him. Entering lap 3, he sets up his car on a slightly inside line for the delicate Paddock Hill Bend, forcing Thiago on a somewhat wide line. Grant now has the ideal position to manoeuvre past the Motorsport division entered car through Druids. And does just that. He grabs the lead and immediately starts edging away softly.

Jaques really has no other option but to grab second from Canola and hunt down Riddall if he wants to keep any title hopes alive.

Beyond the Riddall-Canola-Jaques trio… empty desserts of asphalt and curb stone. Only Thim can more or less keep up, be it already way behind. The rest can just simply bow their heads in inability to keep up.

Iquino’s black and gold car is keen to rejoin the track on the outside of Surtees, after he has gone off. Chacon, Martinelli and I all speed ahead. No longer dead last. And I even enjoy a decent gap over Iquino. Somehow, there is always hope for the naked to get clothed.

Hlavac is having a look at Parker. Sticking noses under rear wings; exiting turns wide with huge dust clouds as result; rubbing the rear inside fender under braking for turns. It is all there. And even some more. Everything one can except from a maniac in a race car really. It however takes more than just inflated ego to outsmart Steve Parker in a GT-car.

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Hlavac had several looks at Parker but lacked the balls to pull it off.

Ahead of me, Chacon has closed in on Jan Prusa, who is running Austin Johnson’s former car. Martinelli looks like he is just seconds away from treading on both Chacon’s and Prusa’s toes. My chances to move up three positions at once increase with the minute.

I even go for some gentle sniffs at 24th, which is now Martinelli’s. The French driver is upping his efforts to get ahead of Chacon. And ends being a tad to eager on the entry for Paddock Hill Bend. His car slithers very wide and hits the outside curbstones. That unsettles the balance of his machine and kills all momentum. I pull alongside while storming in, through and out of the hollow leading up to Druids.

I have the better inside line for the slow 180° right hand bend and slightly move ahead. Martinelli defends with all he has and sticks to the outside line. I am in front of his car however. Which makes it easier to defend the outside line. Centrifugal forces are keen on pushing my car wide and I fail to contain them entirely. In my mirrors, it looks as if Martinelli is running out of space. I am one up. And a resurgent Iquino also shoots past Martinelli. A full scale campaign to conquer Chacon’s spot has yielded Martinelli nothing but dead last on track.

Am I feeling sorry for the French driver, I wonder?

“Come on, you should have grasped by now that sorry does not buy one anything on a racetrack,” old Marcelo’s voice rings in my ear. It sounds as if belonging to a very distant past. But there is much truth in what it says nonetheless. So, I just soldier on.

The entire top 10 is now spreading out and is pretty much looking like a succession of cars on a country road. Cezariusz Czlapinski in 10th is under heavy pressure from none other than Acerclinth. Jonatan gets the upper hand into Hawthorns. Czlapinski tries to recover the lost position on the run to Westfield, but Acerclinth defends well and keeps the advantage. 

Chacon is now really on Prusa’s case and Acerclinth’s pass on Czlapinski seems to inspire him. On the stretch from Surtees to Hawthorns, the Brazilian has a look. Hawthorns is a medium fast affair. And the run from Surtees is not really long enough to entirely pull alongside. An attempt at passing into Hawthorns is therefore always risky business. A bit like making love on a real subway train. With the potential of unexpected passengers entering the carriage.

It proves the ideal setting for Chacon to realize that he is really not an Acerclinth. His move utterly fails and both Chacon and Prusa end up in the abyss of a sand trap.

I do not hesitate and move up two spots. Chacon yet again managed to catch someone else into his mess and just maybe, I feel slightly sorry for Prusa. But then, on a racetrack, sorry does not buy one…

Kowalski retires.

Prusa is back on his feet and he and Iquino are chasing me like a bunch of hound dogs. I do not let that get to me. These fools may reel me in. But actually getting past this bunny… Those dogs will need to be a tad more high class for that. And hear, hear, barely some laps later I see the squadron of disorder bump each other out of Druids.

Prusa retires. And Iquino looses massive amounts of time.

Upfront, Grant’s lead is turning into something of a massive blow to every other driver’s self-esteem.

Grant however makes a tiny and rare mistake, going loose in Dingle Dell. His left wheels touch the grass. Just slightly. But it is enough to send the car spinning off into the sand trap. Canola and Jaques spear by.

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A rare sight… A flaw in Grant Riddall’s driving.

The Brit struggles to get back on track. As he finally gets up to speed again, Thim pulls ahead. Grantus is down to 4th. Time to unleash Full Attack Berserk Mode Maximus Riddall the Lightning. Straight back from the good old 1971 Formula One days.

Facing such determination, Thim does not stand a chance and is quickly relegated back to 4th. Riddall rages on with tails hanging out all over the track and women swooning as they witness such abuse of tires. Pull back up to Jaques and Canola is all that matters now.

Jaques is meanwhile reading the signing on the wall and understands that here is his opportunity. He is on Canola’s tail in no time and is clearly looking for a way past.

From a bit of a dull drive through the country, this thing has now suddenly moved to two races within one big madness.

With the race at the halfway mark, Canola is back into an unexpected lead. But has Jaques gradually unbinding every Ontarian devil on him. About seven seconds further down, Grant is raking up nerve and determination, desperately trying to catch the two in front. Thim has already conceded five seconds to Grant. Parker and Hlavac round out the top six.

I enjoy a clear road behind me. And have Michael Griffiths in front of me. Getting ahead of Griffiths should be feasible, I think. So I set out to reel him in and find a way past. But actually getting past the red Schnitzer car turns out to be less of a cake then I had imagined. Griffiths even manages to edge away slightly.

Into Paddock Hill Bend, out of nowhere, I get the scare of my life. Ryon’s GS Tuning entered car has spun and is blocking the road on the drop towards Pilgrims Rise. What looks like ten thousand BASF Cassetten are staring me straight into the face. Ryon is towards the left outside of the track. So I start moving towards the inside.

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Ryon’s clumsiness nearly cost me dearly.

Instead of staying put at where he is, the damned Belgian starts crossing the track towards the inside. Forcing me to switch direction and head back towards the outside; in extremis. While the rear of the car has just shot over a crest and is unloaded as hell. Not much grip on those rear tires… And a shitload of weight on the front wheels.

All circumstances that generally only result in one thing… the rear wiggling and buffeting with a strong desire to get ahead of the car’s front.

I’m yanking my steering wheel left, then right. And cursing bloody Ryon while at it…

But end up keeping the car straight. Griffiths is gone however. And I am all set for a lonely run to the finish.

More than ever, Jaques is aware that this is his chance to reduce the championship deficit to Grant. If he could just get past Canola… A blanket has been able to cover the both of them for the last few laps. But David yet has to have a first real shot at getting ahead.

Approaching lap 17, the Canadian starts building his move on the run to Clark Curve, the last bend of the lap. He tackles the turn better. Starts moving alongside and into Paddock Hill pulls it off. He is in the lead, and the pressure on Grant is mounting.

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Following Riddall’s off track excursion, Jaques captured the lead.

Jaques starts lapping back markers and straight away increases the gap on Canola to about a second. Grant’s progress meanwhile seems somewhat hampered; the gap between him and Canola stuck at 3 seconds.

Hlavac is again peering at Parker’s 5th but the boy really does not have the balls to get it done and over with.

Grant meanwhile seems more agile in lapping traffic and is right back onto Canola’s rear wing.

Starting lap 21, Grant pulls up to Canola on the run towards Paddock Hill Bend. Then comes alongside climbing Pilgrims Rise and in Druids gets second back from the Brazilian.

Everyone now prepares for the latest of the great show downs between Jaques, the Capablanca of sets-up, and Riddall, the Merckx of fast racing. But then, as often, destiny decides otherwise and sketches some black smoke out of Jaques’ engine. One Beemer motor buys the farm… and it is all over for the Canadian. Riddall is handed the gift almost on a silver platter.

The Britt can cruise home. Canola looks happy with second. Just as Thim is in third.

Luckily, Dave Miller decides to provide some suspense by spinning in Westfield. And taking Whited with him into the kitty litter.

Ryon is back on my tail. And is eager to get back ahead. Problem is, he fails to get close enough to have a good run.

I seem genuinely faster through the first part of the lap. Opening up a gap through Clark Curve. Then putting the momentum advantage over the start-finish straight to my benefit, increasing the gap. Continuing to edge away through Paddock Hill Bend and up to Druids.

But then the situation is inversed and Ryon starts closing in. He has several half looks into Surtees and Hawthorns but never seems close enough to make it stick. And once out of Stirlings, I start building a safe gap again.

After some laps, it looks as if I will be able to stay ahead till the end.

Then, Hlavac and Sterr come up to lap us. Eager to stay ahead of Ryon and let the two faster guys past at the same time, I completely cock up Clark Curve and go very wide. Too wide.

I end up on the grass and fail to get the power down. I barely manage to keep the damned thing straight but Ryon is now right up my ass. I even have to take defensive action into Paddock Hill Bend.

Ryon has a first look into Graham Hill Bend. He comes alongside and past under braking but then overshoots the corner. I pull ahead again along Cooper Straight and have the inside advantage into Surtees. But the BASF Cassetten stick to the outside and have a better run along Pilgrims Drop.

The Belgian is past and I fail to recover the position on the one and half lap that remains. 18th is all I manage. Barely some ragged underwear really. Still, for having had no practice at all, I succeeded in bettering my lap times with about 2 seconds a lap on yet another despicable track.

They say that the proofing of the pudding is in the eating. And the pudding always comes at the end of a meal. So Acerclinth decides to serve Sterr his pudding searing hot. The Swede stalks and then harasses the German all the way down for Druids to Surtees. Even sticks his nose past on the outside of Surtees. Looks like getting it done.

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Acerclinth, Sterr and Whited provided the spectacle on the last laps.

Whited joins the pudding. And the crazed out puddle headed maniacs now storm down Pilgrims Drop three wide. This is going to end with a massive accident. It can not be otherwise.

Sterr looks like saving 5th. Leaving Acerclinth and Whited headbanging through Westfield. But the German looses momentum and there is King Jonatan of the High North claiming a fabulous 5th.

Sterr’s predicament is far from over however, as he has an unchained Whited and an inflated Hlavac all over his rear. The German holds on however and comes home 6th. A magnificent result after his Norisring disqualification woes.

Riddall has by then already long collected the victor’s spoils. Canola is second and Thim safes a brilliant third spot.

With Riddall now on a massive 38 points lead over Canola and a 52 one over Jaques, the championship standings as such seem to loose interest. The best the others can hope for is the odd race win, really. But then, every race in this series has turned out to be a thrill down to the wire. Like each episode in a good television series can stand as a story on its own. With in the end always the same hero standing out. Will Hockenheim be any different?

Full broadcast of the race is HERE. Great show once again.

Standings after round 5 – courtesy of Lukas Vydra.

HlC7